Peasant Food in Action: Portland

Throughout the month of September, I traveled, via train and rideshare, across the US to share, cook up, and experience food culture.  It was a good time to experience rail travel and dedicate time and a journey to field work.

 

If you're going to be in the kitchen, offer assistance and be prepared for the answer.
If you’re going to be in the kitchen, offer assistance and be prepared for the answer.

At the end of August, I bade farewell to my beloved Arcata and all that make it home for me, caught a ride on craigslist going to Portland, and thus my journey began. We drove through the beginning of the Northern California wildfires on Route 3 heading toward I-5.

Christian is a friend I’ve known since we were in high school back in St. Augustine, FL. Our posse, it seems, headed west to find a more liberal scene. However, we all still retain our southern habits as far as hospitality goes. When I rolled into Portland at 3 a.m., my tastbuds were blown away by this meal that he had made for me. If you can imagine food that tastes like what it feels to come home to comfortable, soft, and endearing place of peace following a 12 hour

Christian welcomed me, at his home, at 3am, with a home-cooked meal. Just something simple, he dismissed. Potatoes spiced with traditional Indian-American flavors and served with a cilantro-garlic lassi. He was puzzled when I poured the lassi over my food. He drinks it. I had so much left and drank it right from the bowl.
Christian welcomed me, at his home, at 3am, with a home-cooked meal. Just something simple, he dismissed. Potatoes spiced with traditional Indian-American flavors and served with a cilantro-garlic lassi. He was puzzled when I poured the lassi over my food. He drinks it. I had so much left and drank it right from the bowl.

ride in an old truck, into the night, then you can probably imagine how peaseant food affects the soul. Mostly of vegetables, hot, with a dollop of yogurt, the dishes of my tribe are grounding.

Positive that it wasn’t just road weariness, I became  convinced that Christian’s vegetarian cooking style demonstrated the uniqueness that qualifies one as an accomplished appreciator of foods. Whole foods, taken in their raw form, prepared by bare hands, and cooked with a learned sense of timing bring about the flavor of the heart. That’s when you can taste the love and know that it’s good for you.

In a response to a letter, I sent him, Christian describes what influences his way of making food. It was such a good response, I had to share.: "Hello, dollface! My apologies for not replying sooner!  I am so happy that you took this trip, Rachael! I cannot wait to connect with you in-person to hear all about it... or I can read your writing, of course!  I learned to cook through trial and error and by watching other people, cooking shows and just reading up on how to prepare food. My mother definitely cooked every day and I had an interest in food preparation from a young age. In fact, both of my siblings do as well... perhaps there is a genetic component to cooking?  I do read recipes, yes. I spend a lot of time looking for recipes and have a few sources I return to over and over for either preparation instructions for specific dishes or for inspiration when I am not feeling especially creative. Vegweb.com is one I tend to reply on as well as epicurious.com and my recent favorite is manjulaskitchen.com. I have learned so much from Manjula in the past few months. Her videos are very instructive and her recipes are EVERYTHING to me!  One thing I should mention is that although I read recipes and use them for inspiration, I almost never follow a recipe. I tend to read the preparation instructions after checking the ingredients list. As soon as I understand the process involved and what steps I need to take to get to the end result, I set off in my own direction. It is worse than paraphrasing; it's just an inspired but usually wholly different version. I hope that makes some sense. The exception is when baking or making pasta or something of that nature; those are not my strong areas so I am much more adherent to recipes.  My main influence with cooking is flavor, followed by texture. I really love any food that originated outside of the US. I love flavors that I never grew up with and flavors I have never encountered before... I want to try EVERYTHING that is not meat! My goal with cooking is to master a dish from every region/country... perhaps not even what that region is best known for; just the dish I think is the best. I have already mastered (and to be clear, mastery is totally in the eye of the beholder!) a few dishes. One was that potato dish I made you when you arrived for your visit.  Sometimes I'm influenced by who I am cooking for and their palette(s). I consider my audience in this regard. Sometimes I am influenced by particular produce, though. If I go to the market and someone is selling the most beautiful artichokes I have ever seen, then I might take on breaded & baked artichoke hearts. Or, if the tomatoes make me want to sing out loud, then I might make a tomato/goat cheese tart... who knows?! At the end of the day, the most important thing is freshness and vitality in food. I make sure to eat something I have made every day. This is not to say that I don't frequently pig out on snacks, but I think you know what I mean!  On to "my lassi." I have an update for you about this delicious drink! I was actually attempting to make raita when you were here. It turns out that when you blend yogurt (in a food processor) it liquefies. So, to make the lassi, you add a few cups of yogurt to some chopped (de-seeded) cucumber, a handful of cilantro, 5 or 6 good mint sprigs, shallots or green onion, coriander, cayenne, ginger, whole garlic and whatever else you think goes with that flavor profile. Oh and some good salt, to taste. Blend until it looks good!  My raita, on the other hand, uses the exact same ingredients but the blending step is done without the yogurt. The resulting chopped mix is folded into a bowl of yogurt to avoid the yogurt losing its form. This can be done with any manner of solid ingredients: carrots and currents, fruits (dried and fresh) with rosewater, and on and on and on! The variety of raita never ceases to amaze me!  As to what I put the lassi on, I don't know... I tend to like to drink it directly. There is a fabulous mango one you can make, it is very common recipe and I am sure you have had it. I would love to try making it out of pickled lemon sometime... I need to start pickling lemons!  My goodness! I really went on at length! I hope this is a sufficient amount of information! I miss you, Rachael Patton... I hope you do get to move and experience MORE. I want that for you as much as I want it for Bran and I both.... all my love!  XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO forever, Christian"
In a response to a letter, I sent him, Christian describes what influences his way of making food. It was such a good response, I had to share.:
“Hello, dollface! My apologies for not replying sooner!
I am so happy that you took this trip, Rachael! I cannot wait to connect with you in-person to hear all about it… or I can read your writing, of course!
I learned to cook through trial and error and by watching other people, cooking shows and just reading up on how to prepare food. My mother definitely cooked every day and I had an interest in food preparation from a young age. In fact, both of my siblings do as well… perhaps there is a genetic component to cooking?
I do read recipes, yes. I spend a lot of time looking for recipes and have a few sources I return to over and over for either preparation instructions for specific dishes or for inspiration when I am not feeling especially creative. Vegweb.com is one I tend to reply on as well as epicurious.com and my recent favorite is manjulaskitchen.com. I have learned so much from Manjula in the past few months. Her videos are very instructive and her recipes are EVERYTHING to me!
One thing I should mention is that although I read recipes and use them for inspiration, I almost never follow a recipe. I tend to read the preparation instructions after checking the ingredients list. As soon as I understand the process involved and what steps I need to take to get to the end result, I set off in my own direction. It is worse than paraphrasing; it’s just an inspired but usually wholly different version. I hope that makes some sense. The exception is when baking or making pasta or something of that nature; those are not my strong areas so I am much more adherent to recipes.
My main influence with cooking is flavor, followed by texture. I really love any food that originated outside of the US. I love flavors that I never grew up with and flavors I have never encountered before… I want to try EVERYTHING that is not meat! My goal with cooking is to master a dish from every region/country… perhaps not even what that region is best known for; just the dish I think is the best. I have already mastered (and to be clear, mastery is totally in the eye of the beholder!) a few dishes. One was that potato dish I made you when you arrived for your visit.
Sometimes I’m influenced by who I am cooking for and their palette(s). I consider my audience in this regard. Sometimes I am influenced by particular produce, though. If I go to the market and someone is selling the most beautiful artichokes I have ever seen, then I might take on breaded & baked artichoke hearts. Or, if the tomatoes make me want to sing out loud, then I might make a tomato/goat cheese tart… who knows?! At the end of the day, the most important thing is freshness and vitality in food. I make sure to eat something I have made every day. This is not to say that I don’t frequently pig out on snacks, but I think you know what I mean!
On to “my lassi.” I have an update for you about this delicious drink! I was actually attempting to make raita when you were here. It turns out that when you blend yogurt (in a food processor) it liquefies. So, to make the lassi, you add a few cups of yogurt to some chopped (de-seeded) cucumber, a handful of cilantro, 5 or 6 good mint sprigs, shallots or green onion, coriander, cayenne, ginger, whole garlic and whatever else you think goes with that flavor profile. Oh and some good salt, to taste. Blend until it looks good!
My raita, on the other hand, uses the exact same ingredients but the blending step is done without the yogurt. The resulting chopped mix is folded into a bowl of yogurt to avoid the yogurt losing its form. This can be done with any manner of solid ingredients: carrots and currents, fruits (dried and fresh) with rosewater, and on and on and on! The variety of raita never ceases to amaze me!
As to what I put the lassi on, I don’t know… I tend to like to drink it directly. There is a fabulous mango one you can make, it is very common recipe and I am sure you have had it. I would love to try making it out of pickled lemon sometime… I need to start pickling lemons!
My goodness! I really went on at length! I hope this is a sufficient amount of information! I miss you, Rachael Patton… I hope you do get to move and experience MORE. I want that for you as much as I want it for Bran and I both…. all my love!
XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO forever,
Christian”

He taught me a new trick: by steaming garbanzo beans, it takes 20-30 minutes to cook them. “What! That’s crazy. Those things take forever to cook,” was, of course, my reaction. He soaked them over night. The following evening, they were drained and rinsed

After soaking overnight, drain and rinse the beans well, set over a few inches of water and steam for 30-40 minutes.
After soaking overnight, drain and rinse the beans well, set over a few inches of water and steam for 30-40 minutes.

and in the same steel colander, set to hover within a pot that contained a few inches of water. He found a lid to fit into the colander, over the beans, and turned the heat on high. They steamed for about 20 minutes. They were quite tender and not mushy. They retained all of their delicious buttery flavor and their structural integrity.

Though the outcome produced wonderfully flavorful garbanzos with a tender texture. However, I found them to be slightly undercooked.  I had a suspicion that I might suffer tremendous gas. That was validated hours later. Aside from my this bout of too much information, I really was impressed by this technique. An old friend of mine says that if you experience gas from eating beans, then your body has not yet grown accustomed to eating them regularly. Well, I can say that I have most definitely eaten my fair share of beans. Possibly enough to last two lifetimes. I want to try this and steam them for 30-40 which might just do the trick.

My gracious hosts, Christian and Brandon, showed me an excellent time in Portland, a city I have visited often and never quite seem to be able to take it all in. There is always so much going on, in the city of roses. This was the first place I visited on the Food Culture Field Work 2014 tour and it properly set the tone for one of the greatest trips I have ever taken.

Taste the love.
Taste the love.

 

 

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